PPT Red Flags Apparent Pattern of Ethical Misconduct among Senior DOI Officials

Preliminary investigation suggests ineffective supervision may have contributed to multiple ethical breaches

Today, Protect the Public’s Trust alerted Department of the Interior (DOI) Solicitor Robert Anderson to multiple alleged ethical violations by top officials under his supervision. These potential violations, some of which have resulted in PPT complaints to the DOI Inspector General (IG), may signal a significant void in ethical leadership at the Department.

In his official capacity as DOI’s top legal official, Mr. Anderson is responsible for oversight and management of the Department’s political appointees and its Ethics Office. Yet, during his tenure, PPT has documented a series of possible violations by high-ranking political appointees, including those directly under his supervision. 

Deputy Solicitor for Water Resources Daniel Cordalis participated in the reversal of a high-profile decision by senior career attorneys in a manner that appears to provide direct and predictable benefits to an entity that is not only a former client of his but currently employs his wife. In addition, Senator Lisa Murkowski expressed her “frustration” and “real anger” during a confirmation hearing for an assistant secretary nominee over another incident. The nominee, Laura Daniel-Davis, confirmed that DOI officials permitted uninvited organizations to attend a virtual tribal consultation. Some of these organizations had relationships with DOI participants, including one co-founded by Mr. Anderson.

To further muddy the ethical waters, senior official Nada Culver lead the aforementioned consultation call, which involved issues related to the ongoing IG investigation of Culver. In addition to the letter to Solicitor Anderson, PPT filed a Freedom of Information Act request for information about the tribal consultation raised during Ms. Daniel-Davis’ congressional testimony.

“PPT has uncovered what appears to be a pattern of possible misconduct at the Department of the Interior,” said Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “While the Biden Administration has promised to be the most ethical in history, there appears to be a leadership vacuum at DOI in this area. With trust in the government at an all-time low, it is imperative that leaders at Interior take the steps necessary to assure the American public that transparency and integrity in government remain more than just an empty promise in a public hearing.”

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